Well-Known Member
Dec 23, 2006
Every year since 1966, the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA has produced a report on the attitudes of entering college students on a range of issues. This year's report (PDF) is based on information from 271,441 students at 393 colleges and universities.

For today's freshmen, discussing politics is more prevalent now than at any point in the past 41 years. More freshmen report that they discussed politics frequently as high-school seniors, moving up 8.3 percentage points to 33.8 percent in 2006 from 25.5 percent in 2004, the last time this question was asked.

Students also show increased rates of identification as "liberal" and "conservative" - both these categories have gone up by 1.3 percentage points since 2005. The bad news is that this is the highest level ever of conservative students found by the survey, while the good news is that it's the highest level of liberal students found since 1975.

Students were asked about a number of specific issues.

* Not only do 88.5% of liberals believe the federal government isn't doing enough to control environmental pollution, so do 62.5% of conservatives.

* 83.9% of liberals and 57% of conservatives believe that a national health care plan is needed.

* 70.8% of conservatives and 59.6% of liberals believe that "the chief benefit of a college education is that it increases one's earning power." Perhaps to protect all that extra income they anticipate, only 42.2% of conservatives believe that "wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now," while 71.6% of liberals believe this.
* Support for gun control is down by nearly 5 percentage points.

* Agreement that "there is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals" is at a thirty-year low overall, taking 43.2% of liberals and 67.6% of conservatives.

* Support for gay marriage is up, to 61.2% overall - conservatives of course being the holdout at 30.4% - while denying rights to gay people is down.

There's a wealth of other information available, too: In addition to information on political views, the report addresses students' financial concerns - 2 out of 3 are worried about paying for college, and many students reported being unable to attend their first-choice college for financial reasons. It also gives substantial attention to issues of race, revealing, for instance, racial and ethnic differences in not just the taking of but the very availability of AP courses, with black students being slightly more likely to report that their high schools did not offer any AP classes at all.

It's worth a read in considering what experiences students arrive at college with, what worries will shape their college experiences, and political trends they foreshadow.